Arlington

New UTA genome center could give you the customized cancer treatment you need

UTA, in partnership with the UNT Health Science Center, announced the new North Texas Genome Center that will be able sequence DNA for medical research and the emerging field of precision medicine.
UTA, in partnership with the UNT Health Science Center, announced the new North Texas Genome Center that will be able sequence DNA for medical research and the emerging field of precision medicine. Star-Telegram archives

Imagine being able to get a custom medical treatment by sequencing your DNA.

It's already happening for brain tumors and leukemia but that could just be the tip of the iceberg.

A noted Harvard researcher told the Guardian last month that "genetic sequencing is like the Internet back in the late 1980s."

And now the University of Texas at Arlington is trying to rapidly expand that capability locally with its announcement Thursday of the the North Texas Genome Center.

In the next 18 to 24 months, doctors may be able to send a sample to the new center, to rapidly sequence genomes, DNA and RNA, for doctors, scientists and engineers.

"This is a game-changing situation," said Jon Weidanz, interim director for the new genome center. "I really feel UTA and the North Texas Genome Center are at the heart of it."

While some small labs locally have already been doing sequencing, the new genome center hopes to do it on a much larger scale and also serve as a research hub.

A human genome was first sequenced in 2001 but the time and cost dropped dramatically. Now it takes about 50 hours and costs around $1,000 to sequence a genome.

"This center will allow us to create partnerships with other universities, health care providers and likely partnerships with big companies, including pharmaceutical developers," said Duane Dimos, UTA's vice president for research.

UTA said the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth will be a partner on the project.

“The opening of this new center is wonderful news for Tarrant County and will bring a real boost to our local economy,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said. “By bringing together the science, engineering and nursing expertise of UTA with the biomedical research experience of UNTHSC, this new center will be able produce innovative healthcare solutions with a real positive impact on patients.”

The center will officially open later this month for academic and corporate researchers. UTA is touting lower costs and faster service for human whole genome sequencing.

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